Feeling a bit lost? Lacklustre? You may have decision fatigue. But, if you are suffering any of these signs, here are a few ways you can avoid it.
Have you ever heard of decision fatigue? What even is it anyway? In a super-connected world, we should be finding we are more efficient, saving time for ourselves and things that matter to us. However, it appears we now have the opposite problem.
According to recent research, which analysed more than 225 million working hours, the average user switches between tasks more than 300 times per day during working hours. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with.
Instead of being more relaxed about our super-efficiency, we are actually just trying to pack more in. The result is decision fatigue, where a lack of energy and poor focus impacts on our decision-making ability.
More and more, our careers depend on making good choices. If we can understand decision fatigue and how we can counter it, we can then make sure we’re operating at 100% all day long.
Decision fatigue in more detail
Decision fatigue is the deterioration of our ability to make good decisions after a long session of decision making. In other words, the more decisions you need to make, the worse you’re going to be at weighing all the options and making an educated, research-backed choice.
No matter how rational or sensible you are, you simply can’t make decision after decision without paying a mental price. And unlike physical fatigue, decision fatigue often happens without us knowing.
3 signs of decision fatigue
Anyone who has ever planned a wedding, managed a building project, or any project for that matter, will know how exhausting it is. Have you ever found yourself completely unable to make even the simplest decisions? Do you find yourself procrastinating or even the opposite and acting more impulsively? Are you even starting to think “I just don’t care?”
These are three signs you have decision fatigue.
You can find yourself paralysed by simple choices.
Things like staring dumbly at a computer screen are fairly commonplace. Or, agonising over what to have for lunch.
Now, this is one of the surest signs of decision fatigue. It stops you from performing well, you miss deadlines, end up sacrificing sleep. Your work and personal life suffer. Procrastinating will send you on a downward spiral, avoid it at all costs.
Impulsiveness, although it’s not a bad thing, doesn’t always help.
The downside is that it can make you more impulsive, just to get jobs off the desk. That just leads to chaos and it might be time to reign things in.
How to get over decision fatigue
Understand how productive you are during the day. Look at your working patterns and make a conscious, active effort to reduce the number of small decisions you need to make.
You might find it depends on your industry. Apparently, writers are early birds and find their productivity peaks during the morning. Software developers, however, don’t hit peak productivity until 2 pm!
Here are a few tips for getting over decision fatigue.
Simplify the choices you need to make throughout the day.
Work smart, not hard. Eliminate unnecessary choices from your life. This could involve anything from simplifying your wardrobe to eating the same meal for breakfast every day. You could even try having the same daily morning routine. Basically, throw aside anything you consider as decisions you’d rather not make.
Set honest priorities for earlier in the day.
Instead of using a to-do list, put stuff on a schedule that you want to get done. Set a conscious deadline for your tasks. Research shows that we are more productive in the mornings, so be sure to schedule your days to be top-heavy. Complete your most important tasks and make your most important decisions in the morning.
Focus on momentum, not willpower.
People think packing their days means they get a lot done, but that isn’t true. Avoid things like setting up back to back meetings, because even a single meeting can be exhausting. Remember that you don’t always need to complete your tasks to perfection. Sometimes it’s enough to simply get something done on time.
Decision fatigue makes us feel out of control.
And building momentum around tasks is one of the fastest ways to get that feeling of control back. If you can chain similar tasks together, there’s less chance you’ll be faced with having to “make the decision to get started.”
For each choice, determine if it’s consistent with your core values.
Identify the likely outcome and worst-case scenario, and determine how a decision will impact your resources. In other words, perform a cost/risk/benefit analysis of your choices – and avoid the ones that carry too high a cost or too much risk.
Decision fatigue can cripple the best of us. But, by learning to recognise the warning signs, establishing a decision-making framework, and cutting unnecessary choices out of your day, you can tackle it. And in so doing, you can ensure you’re more productive, more efficient, and more stress-free.